March 15, 2005

'Medicine, Man' has stamp of authenticity

Though it's not a cure for cancer, the play Medicine, Man was originally underwritten by Oncology and Hematology Associates of Southwest Virginia.

Jeffrey Stanley's play, which begins previews Thursday at Theatre Three, stars Scott Latham as Calvin, a NASCAR fan and all-around Southern slacker whose mother has been stricken with a mysterious illness. He and his twin sister, Tracey (Diane Worman), argue constantly about how best to treat Mom. And Dr. Sue Morrison (Kerry Cole), while caring for the mother, finds herself attracted to Calvin despite their vastly different backgrounds. Meanwhile, a mystical stranger, Swimmer (R Bruce Elliott), takes a disconcertingly pointed interest in the mother's case.

Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke, Va., which also produced [the regional premiere of] Mr. Stanley's earlier play, Tesla's Letters [after it's world premiere Off Broadway in 1999],  brought in a team of doctors from Oncology and Hematology Associates to consult on its production of Wit, a drama about a professor stricken with ovarian cancer. "It was the first time a lot of these doctors had had anything to do with theater, and apparently they really dug the experience," says Mr. Stanley.

So when Mill Mountain artistic director Jere Lee Hodgin asked Mr. Stanley for a new play and saw that Medicine, Man also dealt with serious illness, "Jere contacted them and asked if they'd like to underwrite a commission for another play about a doctor," says Mr. Stanley. "Luckily for me, they enthusiastically agreed."

But aren't doctors control freaks?

"They remained very hands-off during the production," says Mr. Stanley. "But at my request, they did refer me to some local physicians, especially a nephrologist, for my research."

(c)2005 by Dallas Morning News.